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Smothers coming to Readers’ Books; Tomatomania and other veggie sales; home winemakers’ awards; National Pretzel Day

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill has the inside scoop on food and wine.

Kathleen Hill

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Marcy Smothers will bring her new book, “Snacks: Adventures in Food, Aisle by Aisle,” her great sense of humor, spunk and generosity to Readers’ Books for our Last Wednesday Food Group on Wednesday, April 30. If you have the book and feel like cooking something easy from it to share, we all enjoy the tastes.

Smothers famously set her family’s kitchen on fire at age 14, trying to fry a steak in a pan.

Teaching herself to cook via Irma Rombauer’s “The Joy of Cooking,” Smothers developed her interests as a “food explorer,” particularly after moving to Sonoma County in 1990 from Los Angeles, where she was a television producer. Before Santa Rosan Guy Fieri was a massive star on the Food Network, Smothers and he co-hosted “The Food Guy and Marcy Show” on KZST, and eventually syndicated it to 15 other radio stations. As a home cook and careful eater, Smothers took herself to “boot camp” at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park in New York to learn how to write recipes. Now, she says, friends call her the “Food Traffic Controller.” She is also the new president of the Cha Chas, the group assisting with many programs at Valley of the Moon Children’s Home.

“Snacks,” with an introduction by Guy Fieri, is loaded with humor, as is Smothers, which is why good friend John Lasseter of Pixar and Disney suggested she write down her tips in the first place. The book costs $19.99, but remember that Readers’ Books gives a 15 percent discount for the books we feature. Please try to keep your business local.

There are no requirements for this group: you don’t need to purchase a book, you don’t have to bring anything, and you don’t have to pay to attend. Just show up for fun and enjoy yourself. 7 to 8:30 p.m. 130 E. Napa St., Sonoma. 939-1779.

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This weekend:

Michael Muscardini and his Red School House tasting room host a “Wine Down Friday” event tonight, April 25, featuring the music of Acoustic Soul, with cheeses and cold meats available for purchase. $10 includes a glass of Muscardini wine or $5 off on a bottle purchase. 5 to 7 p.m., 9380 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood.

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Veggie plant special sales:

In addition to great deals at our local Sonoma Mission Gardens, and what used to be Wedekind’s, Sweetwater Spectrum farm manager Rachel Kohn Obut will have a plant sale from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at 730 W. Spain St., Sonoma. Watch for various veggie plants, flower baskets and succulents for sale.

Tomatomania, the tomato starter plant road show that makes an annual stop at CornerStone in Sonoma, will offer thousands of tomato seedlings of interesting varieties this Saturday and Sunday, April 26 and 27, starting at 10 a.m. both days. 23570 Arnold Dr., Sonoma.

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Master Miller Deborah Rogers’ Marquesa Extra Virgin Olive Oil was judged Best of Class and won a gold medal at the Napa Valley Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition earlier this month. Her Marquesa EVOO has won 19 other medals since Rogers first produced it. Rogers serves on the prestigious UC Davis Olive Center Taste Panel, as does Sonoma rancher-farmer-vintner Nancy Lilly.

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Joel Peterson, of Ravenswood Winery, and sommelier Christopher Sawyer, will be busy judging thousands of wines at Sunset Magazine’s International Wine Competition, Sunday through next Thursday, traveling to the magazine empire’s headquarters in Menlo Park for this tough but flattering assignment.

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Food News with a Twist: Did you know it takes five gallons of water to produce one walnut? That according to CBS 5 television … Pork prices should rise because thousands of young pigs are getting sick and dying of diarrhea from a virus invading crowded (end to end) pig pens, errr, farms. Of course the problem is blamed on the Chinese.

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Several local chefs got to cook recently at a sold-out fundraiser for the James Beard Foundation at Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards. Those preparing a course each included “Top Chef” winner Stephanie Izard of Chicago’s Girl and the Goat, with California chefs Andrew Wilson of Carneros Bistro & Wine bar, Katherine Humphus of Bo-beau Kitchen + Bar, Carlo Cavallo of Sonoma Meritâge and Burgers & Vine, Mark Richardson of Four Seasons Hotel and Moaya Scheiman and Andrea Koweek of Crisp Bakeshop. Each course was served with Gloria Ferrer wines and Belgian beers.

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Sonoma Home Winemakers gave out a mere 45 medals at its recent annual banquet. Top awards for Best White Wine went to Lou Leal of Black Cat Cellars for his sauvignon blanc, and Best Red Wine brought a tie between a syrah by Byron Nichols of Nicholuna and a zinfandel by John Diserens of Stone Barn Farm.

Best Label Design went to David Parr and John Gibbon of Dos Abuelos. Other gold medals were awarded to Chuck Ventrano for his chardonnay, Philip Sales and Joanne Snyder for their viognier, Will Hansen and Diane Page for their zinfandel, Doug Ghiselin for his zinfandel, John Scioccetti for his zinfandel, and Jim McCully for his port.

In keeping with this year’s “Spanish Nights” theme, Steve Rose of Vineyards Inn in Kenwood, catered with a shellfish and fish paella, while new Home Winemakers president Rich Treglia and Stacy brought a meat paella. Judy Lopes turned Vintage House’s Stone Hall into a Spanish club and the Carlos Herrera Latin Trio provided music.

Thanking Assemblyman Mark Levine (in absentia) for authoring AB 1425 to allow home winemakers to pour their wines at charity events, amending a Prohibition=era law, the group presented a magnum of homemade wine to Levine’s representative, Scott Alonso. Past president Joanne Snyder was honored by the state Assembly, and SVHW presented her with a certificate for a belly dancing class, whereupon local international star Nathalie Tedrick entered the room belly dancing and teaching Snyder some early moves.

The Teen Center’s Lovin’ Oven, and Ragazzi program members, helped serve the dinner. As they have for four years, Home Winemakers will donate $1,000 from the evening for graduating students entering the viticulture or food service fields.

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Popular Emily Nagan, who has successfully launched Desserts by Emily, is now also serving at Sondra Bernstein’s the girl & the fig and dreaming up rich yummy fig cakes. So far, you can purchase her desserts at the Santa Rosa Wednesday Market, or by emailing enagan@icloud.com.

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Emily’s brother, Matthew Nagan, has acquired a huge new Johnson Smoker barbecue grill on wheels, inspired by one he saw in Austin, Texas, that those who drive by his Schellville Grill can’t miss. To oversee the big trailer, Nagan has hired Rick Lachmiller, who lives in Sonoma but grew up in Fredericksburg, Texas. Rick has it fully equipped with a table, chair and occasional beverage for himself, and turns out yummy Hog Island oysters, chicken and ribs he buys through Sonoma Market. Check out the barbecue scene Saturdays and Sundays. Inside, Nagan and friends have done a huge restaurant makeover décor-wise.

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Curious about visiting flea markets and famers’ markets in France? Two of my favorite places in one of my favorite countries.

Sarah Anderson, owner of Chateau Sonoma and Ramekins Culinary School, is leading just such a tour Aug. 30 to Sept. 6, which sold out rather quickly. Anderson, who travels to France at least twice a year to purchase antiques for her Chateau Sonoma shop, developed this particular “best of” tour during many exploratory trips. Guests will stay at Chateau Dumas, which is less than an hour from the Toulouse airport and two hours from Carcassonne or Bordeaux.

Anderson is now forming a wait list for another tour she is setting up for the overflow requests from this fall’s.

Don’t be intimidated by the antique shopping. Consider flea markets and farmers markets cultural adventures. You don’t have to buy anything. Just enjoy your surroundings.

Lucky guests will sample French aperitifs, a history and tasting of Absinth, outdoor French films, riverside picnics, food and craft markets, flea markets, three-course dinners at resident Chateau Dumas, hands-on cooking demos, sommelier-led cheese wine and bread tasting, historic tours of villages, the Toulouse Lautrec Museum, tea tastings, rustic dinner in the host’s barn, lunches at village restaurants and much more. And this trip is a bargain in France. Call or stop in at Chateau Sonoma for more info. 153 W. Napa St., Sonoma. 935-8553. Chateausonoma.com.

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Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance Executive Director Maureen Cottingham, Steve Sangiacomo, vintners from Landmark, Laurel Glen, Gloria Ferrer, Gundlach Bundschu, MacRostie and Sojourn Cellars, as well as Lauren Benward Krause of Beltane Ranch, represented Sonoma Valley at Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chefs” event at New York City’s American Museum of Natural History. Beltane Ranch’s 2012 Sauvignon Blanc was paired with Chef Alex Stupak’s shrimp, fennel and chorizo dish. Stupak creates “modernist” Mexican cuisine at his Empallón Taqueria and Empallón Cocina restaurants in New York City. Congratulations to all.

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Williams-Sonoma has started construction in its old-new historic store, cooking school and restaurant/café, and hopes to open in October of this year.

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Coming next week:

Pets Lifeline’s Ladies Luncheon, a.k.a. Tailwags & Handbags, will be Friday, May 2 at Buena Vista Winery, hosted by the ever-charming Jean-Charles Boisset. A great chance to see all of Boisset’s renovations and beautiful landscaping – some enjoyed as late night snacks by local deer – and dine on a healthy lunch of an arugula and poached fig salad, orecchiette with asparagus and fava beans and strawberry shortcake prepared by Grapevine Catering. Find that treasured purse you admired of someone else’s that just might have been donated for the fundraiser.

All of this to help sustain Sonoma Valley’s unusual animal shelter as “a refuge for pets and a resource for people.” 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tickets at 996-4577, ext. 110 or at petslifeline.org.

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Jeanne Nolan, who grew up in suburban Chicago and visits her parents here in Sonoma, will be honored next Friday by Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Waters wrote the introduction to Nolan’s terrific book, “From the Ground Up: A Food Grower’s Education in Life, Love and the Movement that is Changing the Nation,” in which she tells the story of leaving home at 18, joining a farming commune in northern California where she learned organic farming, and then returning to her loving and caring parents.

Nolan has written a book about the whole experience that the New York Times will review this coming Sunday as “one of the most intelligent, surprising and impressive garden memoirs … in a long time.” Nolan is also the owner of The Organic Gardener, Ltd. and has installed loads of edible gardens, believing that anyone can (and should) grow their food.

You can meet and learn from Nolan through a Ramekins class and tour Ramekins’ Fifth Street Farm on Sunday, May 4. $35 includes book. 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Address given upon registration. Sign up at Ramekins.com.

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Steve Ledson’s Centre du Vin, on First Street East, has some new items on its spring menu, including a Caesar salad, an excellent roasted beet salad, oven-roasted Sun Chokes, duck confit salad, asparagus and prosciutto, ratatouille en croute, Balsamic braised airline chicken breast, good old chicken Cordon Bleu, a pork chop and a “duck duo.”

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Today is National Zucchini Bread Day, which doesn’t make much sense since zucchini are far from abundant. But tomorrow is National Pretzel Day and you can get a delish, wood-fired, whole wheat one this morning from Mike the Bejkr at the Friday Farmers Market at Depot Park.

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Bon appétit!

  • http://www.amillioncooks.com/ davecooks

    “… Did you know it takes five gallons of water to produce one walnut?” That’s absolutely nuts!! Pun intended : )